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Dr Tatiana Tiaynen-Qadir


Seems to be a simple question What is social anthropology?

BUT in fact it has a deep philosophical What does anthropological
and existential meaning, knowledge bring to the world?
and a much larger agenda behind. How does it enhance our
This is also the purpose of our understanding of the modern world
introductory lecture and different contemporary cultures?
How is it different from other
disciplines in social sciences and
humanities (sociology, social
psychology, history)
What is transnational anthropology?

• What are social/cultural anthropology studies
• Who is asocial/cultural anthropologist
• Some important anthropological legacies: colonialism, evolutionism,
• Culture
• Transnational anthropology
• Transnational families and subjectivities
• Why does the world need anthropologists?

Different traditions and modalities of anthropology around the world:
Cultural anthropology in the US is also connected with archeology, linguistics, and
biological anthropology, working with the term “culture”
Anthropology in Russia is connected with prehistoric archeology and exotic and
tribal societies
Social anthropology of British origin (which also defines anthropology in Western
Europe) focuses on social processes and dynamic change, not fixating on the
static notion of ”culture”
In Finland: social anthropology is also in dialogue with foklore studies and
The focus in our lectures will be on social and cultural anthropology in the way
it is understood in the Western European tradition (in Finland) today


Rather than defining what Social Anthropology is, it is better to apprehend of
what it does:
Social Anthropology addresses the varieties of ways in which people live, think,
feel, imagine, and act in different social and cultural settings across the globe.
Societies and communities may vary enormously in how they organize
themselves, the cultural practices in which they engage, as well as their
religious, political and economic arrangements.
Social Anthropologists devote themselves to studying this variation in all of its
complexity, with a view to contributing to a broader understanding of what it
is to be human – what unites us as human beings, as well as what makes us so

• The aim of modern anthropology is the documentation and analysis of
human social arrangements in all their historical and geographical
diversity…and as the boundaries had been partly broken down…the basic
principle or the hallmark of anthropology lies in its method, ethnographic
fieldwork (Chris Hann, 2002)
• Human cultural and social diversity across time and space


Diversity of human
experience Ethnographic method Practice-Theory
It is concerned with human It is probably one of the few Practice comes first, then
experiences and social disciplines that often defines theory … It is one one of the
relationships in all its diversity itself through its method few disciplines that works
in the modern world, and in 1) Ethnography as a towards its theoretical and
the past research technique conceptual framing with the
based on fieldwork purpose of reflecting on rich
The term anthropology is a research, long-term complexities of people’s lives
produced compound of immersion in a particular
Greek ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos, site or culture It is not the theory that
"human”, and a supposed - 2) Ethnography as a holistic defines the research design,
λογία -logia, "study." understanding of the but the research design is to
culture, “writing on the reflect on the richness and
people” dynamism of everyday lives

• The topics that social anthropologists have been dealing with are
extremely diverse in scope: social dynamic of gifts, exchange,
reciprocity, rituals, symbols, religion, magic, mythology, witchcraft,
law, order, social control, family, kinship, marriage, politics, economics,
environment (human ecology), …
• Social Anthropology is inevitable bound to cooperate with other
disciplines (history, sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis, etc.) in
order to address the human experience in the contemporary world
• Therefore, interdisciplinarity is also a particular feature of social


• In contrast to many other disciplines, the personality of the researcher is

important in anthropological research design. What is the cultural, ethnic
and linguistic background of the researcher, and how does it affect/enable
her to approach people whom she studies? How does it block alternative
visions and experiences of human life?
• As in any social research, the social anthropologist produces situated
knowledge; she addresses a certain culturally situated phenomenon, but
also speaks from the perspective of a certain academic tradition, which is
also culturally rooted. One has to always position her research in terms of the
research tradition, literature, and her own cultural background. Knowledge
does not exist in vacuum, but always situated in a particular context
(situated knowledge and Donna Haraway)

Who is doing research does affect the representation of the
results in any social research, but social anthropologists are
required to be especially reflexive in how their own
backgrounds affect how they research other people and
groups of people
In other words, social anthropologists have to be open and
not judge the people whom they study by the norms, values
and standards of their own culture. This is not as easy as it
seems, especially given the colonial legacy of anthropology.

Emergence of anthropology in the 19th century was in many ways a
product of colonialism: colonial expansion of the British and French
Empires in Asia and Africa, Russia in the North and Caucasia, white
European in North America, often through suppression of Indian
Americans. The intellectual efforts were directed at documenting
and cataloguing other people’s cultures (the term “race” was
often employed) in order to rule better over those new populations.
Inevitably, in this political configuration, early anthropologists
(ethnologists) were often driven by the values of progress,
modernity and civilizations. Against these norms, the studied
people in “exotic” societies fell often in the categories of
“barbarians”, “primitive” and “uncivilized” people. In other words,
the researched people were judged by the norms of “civilized
Europe” (eurocentrism).


• 19th century American anthropologist, classic example of this
civilizing narratives, best known in anthropology for his evolutionism,
“founding father” of anthropology
• Evolutionary development of humankind through stages, according
to which Western people achieved the culmination of progress, and
‘other tribes and nations have been left behind in the race of
progress’ (Morgan 1877: vi).
• BUT In its time, it also had a good impact against crude racism of
that time that equaled Indian Americans to half-humans. Lewis
showed that Western people once too had passed through the
same stage of human development (situated knowledge)
• Also produced valuable insight into the lives of the Iroquois ,
especially the Iroquois matrilineal system, was revealed by Morgan
as permitting women to exercise exceptionally high levels of political
influence (Morgan 1851).

societies/ associations
However, it would be misleading to reduce the role of
ethnological societies only as the means of control and
Ellias Lönnrot
power. There was a strong romanticizing impulse due to the
rise of European nations. Folklore studies were to collect the
verbal lore, the description of customs, and material culture
of disappearing traditional cultures on the margins of rising
modernity and industrialization. In 19th century Finland, Ellias
Lönnrot travelled among the Finno-Ugrian people in Finland
and Russia, and collected folk poetry, which he organized
into the collection called “Kalevala” (the name of the
mythical land). However, this also served political agenda
of nationalism, to illustrate the glory of the past.

Yet, whether anthropology as the study of the colonized
other or the study of the glorified past, both were rooted in
the idea of linear progress and social evolution (particularly
under the influence of Darwinian biological evolutionism). In
case of colonial subjects, they were created as lagging
behind the Western nations in their societal evolution. In case
of the glorified past, the romanticized cradle (child-phase) of
Western nations in its peasant hinterlands was to be sought
and crystallized to nourish the project of nation-building.


Evolutionism found some development in functionalism, which refers to
a range of theories in the human sciences, all of which provide
explanations of phenomena in terms of the function, or purpose, they
apparently serve.
Society was thought to be like an organism, all parts of which had a
certain function for the entire organism to work as a whole system.
Social scientists were more like natural scientists who could presumably
identify some laws, according to which the society functions as a social
organism. It was assumed that institutions (marriage family), rituals and
other practices had a certain function in the society to create and
maintain a social order in the society.

Social Anthropology Cultural anthropology.
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown Bronislaw Malinowski.


The purpose was to identify the Malinowski argued that culture functions
standardized habits that maintained to meet the needs of individuals rather
than society as a whole: when the needs
the social organism in a condition of of individuals, who comprise society, are
dynamic equilibrium – the ‘more or met, then the needs of society are met
less stable social structures’ regulating (also notion of culture as a way of life,
individuals’ relations ‘to one another, and emic perspective)
and providing such external Dispute between Radcliffe-Brown and
adaptation to the physical Malinowski also defined the division
between British social anthropology and
environment, and such internal American cultural anthropology.
adaptation between the component
The central notion of culture in cultural
individuals or groups, as to make anthropology, and society in social
possible an ordered social life’ anthropology
(Radcliffe-Brown 1932: 152).


While it might be useful to conceive of society as an organism (it is a powerful
metaphor), but it is not productive to reduce all the complexities and diversities of
societies to this logic of functionalism and scientism.
This approach was critiqued in the 1950s, but also in 1980-1990 for normalizing ideas of
a social order, which is presumably shared in the same way by all the members of the
society. It continues as a theoretical orientation in anthropology alongside many
other theoretical orientations such as structuralism inspired by the French
anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, theory of practice, habitus and power by another
French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu, symbolic anthropology by
American anthropologist Clifford Geertz, feminist anthropology for instance
represented by Hortense Powdermaker or Gaily Rubin and many others.
We can’t go into the details due to the shortage of time, but it is important to
understand that such diversity is pertinent to contemporary social anthropology.

The main characteristic of social Anthropological themes include
anthropology of the 20th century has different perspective on kinship,
been the shift from studies of “exotic family and other forms of social
societies” to the studies of relations; politics and political
phenomena within contemporary ideologies, identities and
modern cultures. subjectivities; structures and
organization; economic relations and
exchanges; the social and cultural
elements of embodied life; and
anthropological approaches towards
gender and sexuality, religion, beliefs
and cosmologies; as well as social
and cultural change.

The notion ‘culture’ is probably the The notion of culture in the
single most central concept in ‘anthropological’ sense is plural and
twentieth-century anthropology, but relativistic. The world is divided into
also the one that raises most different cultures, each worthwhile in
discussions (again coming back to
the distinction between Malinowski, its way. Any particular person is a
who advocated for the use of product of the particular culture in
culture, and Radcliffe-Brown, who which he or she has lived, and
opposed this notion) differences between human beings
In Malinowski’s sense, culture is a way are to be explained (but not judged)
of life of a people, and this broad by differences in their culture (rather
notion continues to exist in than their ethnicity or race).
contemporary anthropological
knowledge (Jenks Chris 1993)

Culture starts when people transform Bread making: Ancient Greece
and creatively use what is “given” by
While we discuss the notion of culture,
I will run different images of bread-
making “cultures” on the right side to
illustrate how this has been a subject
of change throughout the
millenniums, yet how some elements
remain unchangeable.
This is to give a sense of differences in
cultures across time and space, but
also their interconnectedness and
sharing in the human experience

Charles Taylor, Canadian CULTURE


“a language and a set of practices Bread making: Medieval

that define specific understandings of Europe
personhood, social relations, states of
mind/soul, goods and bads, virtues
and vices, and the like… a
constellation of understandings of
person, nature, society and the
good” (Taylor 1999: 153-154).
Cultural norms, values, ideals and
ideas are products of history and
social arrangements. Culture informs
and is formed by the juridical,
economic, social, kinship (family),
and religion.

Critique of culture
How can one operate with one single
notion of culture, if there are so many
various understandings, imaginations,
and practices within supposedly one Bread making: Ottoman
culture: monolithic South Asian, Russian or Empire
Western cultures?
There are different groups (women, men,
children, disadvantaged groups, migrant
groups, religious minority groups etc) with
their own specific cultural views….
Culture suggests static notion of culture,
hardly changeable with given
characteristics, and bound within nations
… it essentializes people forcing them in
certain categories

Response CULTURE
• Clifford Geertz: culture can be used
as a holistic template that includes
varying and differently situated Bread making in Soviet
notions of culture Russia
• There are can be also different
layers, levels and manifestations of
culture, coexisting at the same time
• Elite culture, working class culture,
tea culture, gender culture
(categories and characteristics
ascribed to women and men in
society), minority culture, modern
culture shared more or less globally

Dynamic culture CULTURE

• Assume dynamic nature of culture,
ever changing and reconstituting in
connection with other cultures, Industrial bread baking now
postmodern notion of culture
• Assume multilayered notion of
culture: modern globally spread
industrial culture of baking bread
co-exists with traditional
homemade (ancient) culture of
baking bread. Both are invested
with different types of meanings
and embodied practices.

According to World Society Theory, we all
live and take part in the making of world
Traditional bread making in
In this sense, there is one single globally Pakistan now
shared modern culture: the world is
divided in nation-states with similar
symbols and practices
YET there are also
- localized cultures: national or even city-
bound cultures (New York culture)
- class-bound cultures, depending on
the social status of individuals, and their
- migrant or diaspora cultures etc

Cultures overlap CULTURE

Cultures overlap, and need to be
defined and situated in a certain
context of research: what do you Homemade bread baking
mean by culture? now
And cultures may overlap in one
society and one individual’s life such
as the traditional homemade baking
(rooted in the ancient world) is well
combined and lived with industrial
bread making in the modern society
So does an individual may belong to
different cultures (and subcultures) at
the same time

Culture is fluid, multi-layered with many variations within a culture and beyond.
Thus, application of the term needs to be seen as situated and may even vary
within a given single research (Barth, 2002).
How do cultures and our perception of culture change in the modern world
which is increasingly interconnected?
• People move: travel, migrate, commute translocally and transnationally, incl.
labour migration
• Ideas, images, representations travel through social media, travel accounts,
TV etc.
• Capital and money moves: transnational corporations and markets
• Flights are affordable, people remain connected through skype, Viber, e-
mail etc

Culture in transnationally interconnected New
world condition
Emergence of transnational anthropology needs to be
seen as reaction to this new condition of
• Increased “interconnectedness of the world” (Hannerz,
1996, p. 8)
• The world has never been so intensively interconnected
in its entire history
• Profound changes on people’s everyday lives, their
identities and ways of life

Transnationalism “describes a condition in which, despite great distances and
notwithstanding the presence of international borders (and all the laws,
regulations, and national narratives they represent), certain kind of
relationships have been globally intensified and now take place paradoxically
in a planet-spanning yet common – however virtual – arena of activity”
(Vertovec, 2009, p. 3).
Vertovec emphasizes the difference between the terms international and
transnational: the former refers to the interactions between national
governments and the “toing and fro-ing” of items from one nation-state
context to another; in contrast, the latter focuses on sustained linkages and
ongoing exchange among non-state actors based across national borders –
business, NGOs, and individuals.


Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai emphasizes that the contemporary
world has become more “deterritorialized”, which profoundly changes
the everyday experiences of people. Furthermore, Appadurai calls
attention to what he calls “today’s cosmopolitanism” that combines the
experiences of various media with various forms of experiences –
“cinema, video, restaurants, spectator sports, and tourism” (Appadurai
1996, 64). In other words, when analysing cultural reproduction in
today’s world, one cannot disregard transnational cultural flows or that
contemporary lives are greatly shaped by cultural representations
conveyed by media, films, novels, and travel accounts. “The world on
the move” is Appadurai’s expression.

Anthropology appears determined to give up its solid ideas of territoriality fixed
communities and stable, localized cultures, and to apprehend an
interconnected world in which people, objects, and ideas are rapidly shifting
and refuse to stay in place…..in the interconnected world, we are never really
“out of the field” (Gupta and Ferguson, 1997)
The term “deterritorialization” is applied by Arjun Appadurai broadly, ranging
from such examples as transnational corporations and money markets across
national borders to ethnic groups, sectarian movements, and political
formations that increasingly operate in ways that transgress specific territorial
boundaries and identities (Appadurai 1996, p. 49). Transnationally circulating
literary and movie characters shape our understanding of ourselves, and of
the social reality that we live in.

Pioneered TA in Finland Anthropologist
Ulla Vuorela
A new take on the traditional topic of kinship studies in
Families that live some or most of the time separated
from each other, yet hold together and create
something that can be seen as a feeling of collective
welfare and unity, namely familyhood even across
national borders (Bryceson & Vuorela, 2002)
Elusive phenomenon, challenge to social scientific
analytic efforts
Transnational families are capable of endless mutations,
and re-defining themselves over and over again

• Trasnational families are the results of people’s moves, voluntary and
enforced, evictions and escapes, people’s mobility in search of bohemian
life styles and in search of political refuge. “War and piece” are inscribed in
the lives of transnational families.
• Transnational families’ stories are the stories of enforced separation and
longed re-unification, sparse communication and intense online co-living. By
their own existence, they challenge the logic of nationalism, and
methodological nationalism, as well as localized methods of ethnography
• Methodological nationalism refers to those studies that are bound to one
nation-context, ignoring transnational influences and connections that take
part in the localized phenomena

• Transnational families are not only about positive belonging to the space of family,
but also family frictions, and the pain of loss in the midst of migration.
Telecommunication technologies do compensate for the physical absence, but are
not able to replace the embodied contact and emotional closeness of joint living of
the mother and the child
• Parrens Rhacel Salazer discloses painful aspects of transnational mothering. She
points out that the Filipino women have become “servant of globalization” doing
domestic work in middle-class families in Rome and Los Angeles. Their own children
are left behind with their husbands and grandmothers who take care of the children
when parents have to leave. Thus, extended family support is activated to enable
the women to migrate and perform their work. In this scheme, traditional gender
norms are broken (fathers economically sustain the family, and mother reproduces
family life), but at the cost of the pain of separation, which “fuel” emotional stress in
transnational families (Parrenas 2002).

• Transnational anthropology also maintains that people can maintain a sense
of belonging to different cultures, ethnic groups, communities, locations,
places, and nations. One can have two or more “homes” and live multi-sited
lives in practice and imagination. Yet, transnational moves may also
generate a feeling of belonging nowhere, feeling virtually “homeless”.
• …the processes that position people as citizens of nations and as members
of large, smaller, or dispersed units of agglomeration need to be
conceptualized together. The structures of feeling that constitute nationalism
need to be set in the context of other forms of imagining communities, other
means of endowing significance to space in the production of location and
“home”. (Gupta, 2003, p. 331)

• Recent research correctly points out the fluid, multi-ayered, and constructed
character of identity. Yet human beings are inevitably anchored in their
personal histories. Being anchored in their personal histories becomes even
more important for individuals as they grow older, as they age. “Different
layers of memory exist in our daily lives and we could not survive without
access to things past in our personal histories” (Vuorela, 2009b, p. 264).
• Transnational subjectivity captures this change and anchorage in one’s
personal history. Transnational subjectivity refers to a “trajectory that
combines living in different places, and makes mobility a historical trajectory
of one’s own, always connecting to where one is located but simultaneously
keeping oneself solidly anchored in one’s own story and oneself” (Vuorela,
2009, p. 170).


• To address a sense of the world as a single place and as a place comprised of many
• To enable deep and nuanced understanding of the world and the rich complexities
of people’s lives that are not accessible trough surveys and other standard social
research methods
• To overcome its own legacy that established linear understanding of history and
human progress in order to emphasize the value and insights of different cultures
• To work towards “thick” description of own and others’ cultures, and create a
common space between them
• To illustrate how symbols work in our lives and selves
• To show that there are many different ways of seeing the world and experiencing it,
and the self
• To illustrate the work of power relations in family, gender, society, and in the
production of knowledge …and many others